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Drunk Driving: When Another Shot Leads to the End of the Road

On July 28, 2006, actor Mel Gibson was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol after being stopped for speeding in his 2006 Lexus LS 430 on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California. Gibson was stopped on the coast highway at 2:09 a.m. Friday after a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff allegedly observed him driving his car at more than 85 mph. A breath test indicated Gibson’s blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent, based on police records. In California, a driver is considered legally intoxicated at 0.08 percent.

Mel Gibson is just one of the famous celebrities who were apprehended because of drunk driving. Other celebrities who were arrested for such an act are Nicole Ritchie, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohay, and Nick Nolte whose now infamous mug shot has become almost a symbol for Hollywood’s out-of-control lifestyle and culture.

Drunk driving is the act of operating or driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs to the degree that mental and motor skills are impaired. Drunk driving is a serious misdemeanor in the United States. The specific criminal offense is usually called driving under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs (DUI).

In 2005, according to the Department of Justice, nearly 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s less than one percent of the 159 million self-reported episodes of alcoholimpaired driving among U.S. adults each year. More than half of the 414 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-related crashes during 2005 were riding with a drinking driver, based on statistics given by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2004, an estimated 16,654 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. This is an average of one death almost every half-hour. Drunk drivers were responsible for 30 percent of all fatal crashes during the week in 2003, but this percentage rose significantly over the weekends, during which 53 percent of car accidents were alcohol-related.

DUI is perhaps the most preventable traffic safety problem. No one is compelled to drink alcohol and drive. But alcohol and driving are so deeply connected in American culture that the problem is unlikely to stop. This act, since drivers are impaired, can easily be one of the main cause for self-destruction.

Still, there has been success in recent years in reducing the incidence of DUI. In 1980, nearly 60% of fatal crashes had alcohol as a factor. By 1993, that number had dropped to 43%. In the ensuing years the frequency of DUI as measured in the fatal crash index remained relatively steady overall. But it now appears to be on the rise overall, with marked spikes among certain groups. Recently, alcohol-related deaths are reported to have risen for the third year running, according to the latest statistics from the NHTSA.

Driving while consuming alcohol is generally illegal, though driving after drinking remains legal. In some jurisdictions it is also illegal for an open container of an alcoholic beverage to be in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle or in some specific area of the compartment.

A lot of studies has constantly giving us alarming data on alcohol-related accidents and deaths. Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes killed nearly 17,000 people in 2002 alone. Alcohol is a factor in 6% of all traffic crashes, and over 40% of all fatal crashes. The only way to prevent these types of accidents is to simply refrain from drinking and driving. Charged to the experiences of famous celebrities who were apprehended because of their irresponsible acts, drunk driving can also be considered a form of suicide.

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